Every time I see one of these stories about the failure of "reform" efforts to deliver the goods I don’t know whether to tear my hair out or say "I told you so." Politico reports that the new reports filed by lobbyists don’t do very much to make it easier to track what’s really going on, particularly when it comes to finding out the financial backers of the shadowy coalitions that popup in various high-profile policy debates – usually using lots of expensive TV ads to stir up the grass roots.
According to Jeanne Cummings:
….this first round of reports, which does include some of the more modest new disclosure requirements, represents an inauspicious beginning to what was supposed to be a new age of enlightenment about K Street and Congress.
Duh. Sunlight has recommended what we think would make a big difference when it comes to transparency reforms for lobbyists: Everyone who is paid to engage in direct issue advocacy with lawmakers and their staff should be required to register, and all registered lobbyists should disclose all legislative contacts (by name and office), all legislation and regulations discussed, and any relationship to a current member of Congress, staff member, or executive branch employee. And all these reports should be filed online within 24 hours of any meeting or contribution.
Frankly, let’s make it even easier. How about a Twitter feed for lobbyists? That way, lobbyists could tweet the information from their BlackBerry as they are leaving their appointments. Nothing could be easier.